UCSF: Challenges and opportunities

My visit to the UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco.

I had a brief, but enlightening visit last week with Dan Henroid and his foodservice staff at the UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco. Dan gathered about 20 of his chefs and managers for an hour-long chat about the challenges and opportunities facing this 560-bed medical center near Golden Gate Park.

UCSF Medical Center is in the early stages of a nearly $8-million renovation of its foodservice facilities. When it is completed, the redo will include a new convenience store, a modern cafeteria servery with plenty of cook-to-order stations, and a kitchen with a pod system for tray assembly and a room-service component for the children’s unit that occupies two floors of the building.

It will be the first renovation of the facility in more than two decades, and foodservice employees are understandably excited about the possibilities the facelift will provide. The first phase of construction will be a convenience staff, called Moffitt Express, which is scheduled for a soft opening right before Thanksgiving. Then will come a nearly year-long renovation of the cafeteria, which will necessitate closing much of the facility for several months and selling all food for take-out. Finally, the kitchen will be upgraded.

What is less than thrilling is the fact that the renovation will come without an increase in staff. UCSF Medical Center is part of the University of California system, which is currently in a system-wide hiring freeze. Henroid explained that it is a major challenge to convince administration to allow him to fill a necessary position when that post becomes vacant.

Even one of the most commendable aspects of the cafeteria service—the use of 100% recyclable/compostable service ware—is motivated as much by economics as environmental awareness. Henroid said that is requires fewer employees to operate this way than it would be to use 100% permanentware.

Still, Henroid is proud of what is being accomplished, a plan that he “adopted” as an infant, when he arrived here three years ago, and has brought nearly to maturity. And he has confidence that his staff will be able—eager, in fact—to do more with the same number of bodies, or fewer. I was impressed, during my brief visit, with the enthusiasm of the staff as they undertake this challenging assignment. This is undoubtedly due in part to the fact that many of them were on staff the last time the cafeteria was renovated. For them, at least, this will be like a long-awaited Christmas present.

A full report of what awaits patients, employees and visitors at UCSF Medical Center will appear in an upcoming issue of FoodService Director. It would be interesting to return in early 2011 to see the finished product.

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